14 Dec 2015

Mini Reviews 13/12/2015

We may not have time to review every book on our pull-lists but we do aim to provide a snapshot of what's been released over the past week, encompassing the good, the bad, and those that lie somewhere in between.

Writer: Matt Hawkins
Art: Raffaele Ienco
Image/Top Cow $3.99

Matt C: Matt Hawkins has been plying his trade as a master of intelligent, insightful storytelling for a number of years now with projects like Think Tank, Aphrodite IX and The Tithe. Symmetry is another impressively researched and crafted tale of a future where the utopian ideal has been realized, and as such ambition, creativity, diversity and the instruments of capital have all been removed from society. We’ve all read enough sci-fi by now to know that these kind of situations are just waiting for cracks to appear and everything to start crumbling, and so it goes. Hawkins is one of the smartest writer’s on the block, and it shows throughout this issue with the interesting and challenging notions being dealt with, and his skill at selecting hugely talent artists to translate his ideas onto the page pays off again with the gorgeously vibrant Raffeale Ienco produces. A very promising beginning. 8/10

Writer: Ed Brisson
Art: Adam Gorham & Michael Garland
Image $2.99

Matt C: Although he was once more familiar for his work as a letterer, in the last couple of years across a number of different projects (particularly Sheltered) Ed Brisson’s shown that he’s also a writer with a really strong voice. The Violent isn’t reinventing the wheel  by any stretch, as it utilizes the well-worn trope of the ex-con trying to go straight,  but where it excels is in its perceptive characterization and subtle pacing that draws the reader directly into a situation infused with desperation. A strikingly evocative opening page immediately makes it clear that Gorham and Garlan have the skills required to bring this tale of the inherent difficulty of avoiding the wrong choices to life. Picking up this highly persuasive opener, however, would be the right choice. 8/10

Writer: Ollie Masters
Art: Tyler Jenkins
BOOM! Studios $3.99

Stewart R: Laying out the premise of Snow Blind - an Alaskan teen rebels against his relatively controlling parents and in doing so discovers that his family are living in witness protection and blows their cover in the process - seems to suggest a fairly simple idea, but Masters centres on Teddy's isolation and teenage angst to elevate the mystery further. The idea that social media might be a threat to the anonymity of those who may wish to remain hidden is a quite believable plot point and once the curtain has been lifted Masters and Jenkins take some time to focus on the emotional turmoil for Teddy's father. Jenkins' art style finds some great middle ground between that of Matt Kindt and Riley Rossmo and much relies upon his visual storytelling with a script that's effectively light on dialogue. Being a four-parter, it'll be interesting to see if Masters maintains the mystery until late in the story or turns this into more of a chase thriller, but in either case this will remain a fine debut. 8/10

Writer: Warren Ellis
Artist: Jason Howard
Image $2.99

James R: After finding that his James Bond series didn't hit the mark for me, I was delighted to see that it was business as usual again for Warren Ellis in Trees. This series has been a consistent slice of brilliance, showcasing all of what Ellis does best - bleeding edge science with bursts of explosive action, populated with characters who are fiendish but magnetic to read. In this chapter, there's some speculation as to what the extra-terrestrial trees are doing, interspersed with a battle for control of the part-ruined New York. Yet again, Jason Howard brings Ellis' high concepts to life with aplomb, giving the near-future Earth a feeling of verisimilitude that adds to the winning package of this book. The other thing that I love about this series is that even though there are portents of doom throughout, given the events of these 13 issues to date, there is still a great feeling of unpredictability to this plot. Trees continues to flourish, and in a year of great SF books, this still stands tall amongst them. 8/10

Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Art: Esad Ribic & Ive Svorcina
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: While it’s lasted slightly longer than originally planned, and even though we’re still one issue away from its conclusion, I think it’s safe to say that the culmination of Jonathan Hickman’s tenure at Marvel has been intensely ambitious and brilliantly executed, a high watermark for the event series format, one that is unlikely to be bested any time soon. Hickman, Ribic and Svorcina have pulled out all the stops to create a tale that utilizes characters that have been around for decades - characters that you’d think had been flogged like dead horses at this stage in their lifespans – and found new angles to approach them from, giving them a freshness and vitality that highlights why their inherent iconography allows their continued longevity in the pop culture firmament. It’s been a staggering achievement, a gauntlet thrown down to other writers to attempt to match it’s quality, a masterpiece of mainstream superheroics. 9/10

James R: The end! Oh no, sorry, not quite! Originally this series was due to be eight issues, but it's spilled out into nine. Once again, if you followed Hickman's run on Fantastic Four or the Avengers, there is a definite sense of those arcs now coming to a climax, as the forces of Doom face off against the survivors of the 616 and 1610 Universes. For your fanboy/girl delectation this issue, you get to see the giant form of the Thing (NOT a Giant-Sized Man-Thing - that's something else entirely!) square off against by a Galactus who’s being manipulated by Franklin Richards (or Franklin Von Doom as he has become - nice to see that God Emperor Doom went to the trouble of sorting out the adoption papers!) We also see the return of a character with a limited vocabulary in a truly spectacular way. It looks beautiful - Ribic and Svorcina are doing stunning work here and my only complaint is really one of timing:  given that the 'New' Marvel Universe is up and running (and several issues in with some books!) along with the fact that all the Secret Wars miniseries have wrapped up, there is a sense for me that this main title has become less and less consequential. It's a shame as I have loved what Hickman did with the Marvel Universe, and now there's only one issue left to see how he puts all the pieces into the spaces the new books tell us they have to be. I'm hoping for a final twist or touch of magic - this event started so strongly it should also have a powerhouse finale.  7/10

Writer: Noel Clarke
Art: J. Cassara & Luis Guerrero
Titan $3.99

Stewart R: With The Troop you're very unlikely to get through this first issue without recognising commonly used tropes that appear on a regular basis through Marvel and DC's titles, but I believe you're also unlikely to close the final page and not be slightly impressed by the quality of what you've read. Across thirty one gorgeously illustrated pages we're introduced to a handful of individuals who wind up on the violent path towards an apparent team dynamic. The opening sequence is particularly brutal as an Australian family come under attack due to the secret held by one of their own. It sets the stall out well for what is to come as a clandestine group appears to be chasing down other special people around the globe, with only the handful we follow managing to slip through the net... so far. The young girl's tragic past is particularly gripping with her devastating powers particularly intriguing and gruesome, while Phil's brush with a potential vampire suggests that there may be several directions in which this book may stretch as we carry onwards. And carry onwards I will if the writing remains this strong and the artwork from Cassara and Guerrero remains this striking as The Troop could make for one of the best alternative superhero books of the next year. 9/10

No comments: